Agri-Food and BioSciences Institute

© Gillian Scoley, AFBI

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) is an agricultural research organisation (public body), employing approx. 700 staff across 7 sites in Northern Ireland. AFBI undertakes assigned research work programmes on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland. In addition, AFBI carries out significant externally-funded scientific work including commercial contracts, European projects and other international collaborations. AFBI’s core functions are to deliver a programme of statutory testing, surveillance, emergency response, research and development and scientific advice in relation to animal and plant disease, the environment, food safety, freshwater and marine fisheries and rural and agri-food and rural economics. Aspects of this scientific programme enable DAERA and Northern Ireland to comply with national and EU legislation, and support policy development.


© Cliff Mason, AFBI

Competence and main role(s) in the project

AFBI will be primarily involved in WP2 (Task 2.1, 2.3 and 2.4): these will seek to monitor the establishment (birth to 8 months) of rumen, faecal, vaginal and nasal microbiomes of genotyped calves under standard management, and then follow up these same animals for persistency of microbiomes at mating, pre-partum, peak lactation and drying off, for comparison with earlier ones. Fifty Holstein cows from the AFBI herd will be enrolled in the project, and the sampling undertaken as per the specified protocols. Samples will be analysed by other partners within the project.

Project staff

Conrad Ferris
Has over 25 years of experience as a Dairy Research Scientist. He has undertaken research across a wide variety of areas related to dairying, including dairy cow nutrition and management, environmental issues, grassland management, cow genetics and whole systems studies. Responsible for overall project management.
Dr Ferris Conrad
Helena Sobte
A PhD student investigating the link between the microbiome, behaviour and temperament and how the interplay between these affects attainment of key performance indicators and the individual's ability to successfully cope with the challenges of the rearing system. She has a BSc in Veterinary Biosciences and an MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour, and has a particular interest in animal welfare.
Gillian Scoley
A dairy youngstock Researcher at AFBI Hillsborough, who has worked within the dairy youngstock research team since 2011. She received her PhD in 2018, which aimed to use novel technologies to assess calf health, welfare and performance. She is currently leading projects linked to calf housing environment, and nutrient utilisation in calves. Gillian leads and manages the implementation of the AFBI studies within Holoruminant.
Dr Gillian Scoley